Over the last 3 weeks my family has been watching church from a computer.  It sounds just as funny to say it as it is to write it, “watching church.”  We are practicing Catholics, and we have been watching Mass from “The Church of the Nativity” located in Timonium, MD.  In some circles Fr. White is famous.  He is well known for a series of books that he has written about refocusing his Parish.  The first of which is called Rebuilt.  I cannot tell you how many times I have bought this book and then passed in on to people in our Catholic school as well as suggested it to folks in the faith community.  I chose those words carefully; faith community.  The reason for this is one of the things that Fr. White talks about in his book is that he had an awful lot to learn from other denominations, and that it didn’t mean that he wasn’t Catholic anymore, or even that he was breaking Catholic doctrine.  Further, it’s obvious in his writings that he also reads authors like Lencioni, Covey and Sinek.

Interestingly enough, the same principles Fr. White uses to turn his Parish into a “SUPER PARISH,” are sound principles in business as well.  I could talk about Rebuilt all day, but I digress.  Over the last three weeks the homily message has been focused on “Don’t waste a crisis.”  And it got me thinking, what am I doing with my family and my business to not “waste this crisis.”

This series will be focused on how you are not wasting this crisis, or any crisis for that matter, and are you using it for positive development.

The first one is Awareness:

My good friend Mike P. works for the Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall, WA.  I remember hanging out with Mike after he worked there for a couple of years and being in complete awe at how he was so aware of his surroundings.  Further what was so impressive was how aware he was of how his presence affected his surroundings and the role he played in that “manipulation.”  It’s just as intense as it sounds.

Approximately 3 weeks ago, we were asked, and in some cases forced, to do things differently.  How aware are you of your role in that difference?

“The Talent” (aka workers):  A crisis like this allows entry level talent to shine….and hide.  What do I mean?  Well, some people have chosen to use this crisis as an excuse to not do their job.  Frankly, in some cases they might not be able to.  The Talent also know that they are relatively insulated from accountability because….Pandemic.

However, The Talent worth keeping are using this time to prove to themselves and others that they are an asset that makes Lemonade out of Lemons…or that Orangeade is just as good and doesn’t need as much sugar.  What does that mean?  If you are The Talent are you setting yourself up for success through being a problem solver?  Are you asking for permission to try something a little different and have a game plan as to what the success would look like? Are you asking for help from peers, family members, supervisors, mentors, etc?

If there was ever a time to prove that working from home is better, this is it!  If there was ever a time to hone your sales skills, this is it!  If there was ever a time to solve a problem, this is it!  If there was ever time to learn a new skill, you guessed it….there won’t be another time like right now.  Don’t waste this crisis because you lack discipline and motivation.  It is in this time that you can choose to be a self-starter, problem solver and a go-getter.  Either way, it will show in the end.

As an example, our General Manager Helen (who I consider way more than Talent) has been doing research and has found workshops for us on-line to improve our food prep and serving skills.  Further, she has become a ninja with our website.  A skill she didn’t have before this winter.

“The Glue” (aka middle managers):  The saying, if you want to get something done give it to the busiest person is completely applicable in this situation.  I have a sister that is the VP of Retail for a start-up coffee business in Baltimore.  I talked to her on the phone and she sounded exhausted.  She said, “Rick, I have never worked this hard for this little revenue in my life.”  On a good day she is having to communicate effectively with the business owners and figure out why a store assistant manager didn’t show up to unlock the door of store number 3.  If being the Glue wasn’t already tough, she now has to do it in a pandemic. I reminded her that she is a leader and that her staff was depending on her to be confident and real.  In times like these we have to validate the feelings of our Talent and give them more encouragement than criticism.

How you lead your Talent will either solidify you as their leader or lose their confidence all together.  How you communicate with the Leaders will do the same.  Either way, humility plays a major role in both points below:

  1. First and foremost, you need to listen to the needs (both personal and professional) of your Talent. Remove any realistic barriers that The Talent is struggling with and have compassion and understanding. Be aware of their needs and anticipate roadblocks.  Take notes on who is excelling under pressure and who is having a hard time putting perspective on their new situation.  And share your successes and challenges.  Ask for their input.  You’ll be surprised what they might come up with.

Focus on “Feel, Felt, Found” statements when talking to your Talent.  “I know how you feel, I felt/feel the same way, what I have found is…….”

  1. Effectively communicate with The Leader what are the needs of you and your team. What challenges you may be having in this new business climate and how your team is challenging the status quo and challenging old paradigms.  Be realistic in your needs.

Saying things like, “In the past I would have done (blank) but that isn’t working right now.  We are going to try (blank).  Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?”

If you understand your Talents strengths and weaknesses, you might be able to “Switch their seat” (Collins) to better position the team for success.  Do you have a staff member that is good at paperwork but not at cold calling? Do you have another that is great at the cold call….how are you able to make it so that all one person does is cold call and then hand off the paperwork to the other that is better at that job skill?  Take time to be aware of The Talents strengths.  Make notes about it.  And then find ways to give them more of the tasks that they enjoy and are good at completing.

The Leader wants to know what is being done to keep everything going.  Anticipate his/her needs and have details.  Details show that you are deep into solving a problem.  Another suggestion for communicating would be, “I know you are concerned about ????, we haven’t quite come up with a solution that benefits everyone, but we are working on it.  Any suggestion you may have would be helpful.”

“The Leader” (aka Executive):  To be honest I am not a fan of this moniker if you have a suggestion I would be willing to listen and make a change.  When I walk into my stores at 8pm with a line out the door the first thing I do is ask what needs to be done.  I never start barking orders and telling my Talent what I think needs to be done.  Over the years I have found that this does two things: 1. It allows our Talent to focus on what they want to be doing, serving customers, and; 2. it takes the tension away because they just handed off all the stuff that’s been building to someone that is going to complete it.  All at once the 16-year-olds all the way up to the General Manager start yelling out tasks that have been accumulating because they’re in the weeds.   “Fill ice cream, we need more cups, I had a shake explosion over here…. oh, and we haven’t checked the trash outside.”  With no more words, I set to work tackling and prioritizing each task that they give me until they are complete and then I jump in line and help them fulfill orders.

The Leaders job is easy….do the “dishes.”  Yes, you may find yourself in other roles, and yes, your job still needs to be done but everyone’s priority has changed.  The expectation is that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make your Glue and Talent successful even if that means you must do the dishes.  But take note.  There are tell-tale signs that jobs were not fulfilled the way they are supposed to be done because they weren’t prepared for anticipated needs or that they don’t do things the correct way to begin with.  A crisis is not an excuse to cut crucial corners.  What we do in our stores at 7:00pm sets us up for success at 8:30pm.  If it isn’t done, success is a lot harder, way more stressful and glaringly obvious that we as a team aren’t prepared.

Awareness is essential to a crisis.  Whether it be a health crisis shutting down business or the 8pm rush that comes in every night.

You can’t control a crisis, but you can control how you respond to it.